We sat down with Carolyn Porter, CEO of Cytoseek to discuss how their technology is aiming to improve therapies for cancer.
What are the challenges that you are looking to overcome or solve with your work?
We are seeking to unlock the potential of cell therapies by applying our innovative technology to overcome their current limitations in treating patients suffering from cancer due to solid tumours. These therapies are currently limited in their effectiveness by the hostile environment in the tumour. Our technology is seeking to enhance the effects of cell therapies when they are at the tumour site and decrease the suppressive effect of the tumour environment both combining to drive development of new therapies for cancer patients.
What’s the driving force that gets you out of bed every day to do what you do?
The biotech industry is like no other. You are pushing forward pioneering innovations whose ultimate objective is to save patient lives by developing new therapies. There are few other industries where your success will be ultimately measured by this impact. This is a major motivator for me.
I am also motivated by enabling the successful translation of early stage innovations particularly those emerging from the University ecosystem where I have operated on various sides of the table in the most recent part of my career.
How do you think what you do can make the world a better place, improve industries or even lives?
If our technology enables cell therapies to treat patients suffering from cancer due to solid tumors where they have to date been unsuccessful then our impact will be saving patient lives.
What made you want to set up your business in Bristol?
I have operated in the golden triangle for much of my career to date and joined CytoSeek in early 2020 when the business had spun out of Bristol University. The emerging Bristol ecosystem both in terms of companies and wider stakeholders played a role in attracting me to the opportunity. The people, their conviction and the vision behind Science Creates convinced me that Bristol has the potential to rival other technology hubs in the UK and worldwide.
What position were you in before you started working with Cytoseek?
I was previously CBO of an Oxford University spin-out company and prior to that worked in several different roles including in University technology transfer at Oxford, in Business Development in big pharma (Novartis) and biotech (Chiron) and in Corporate finance at Ernst & Young. I have therefore sat on several sides of the table concerning commercialisation of exciting innovations.
Why is Science Creates is the right place for you to be?
Individual companies need a functioning ecosystem to thrive and grow and I believe as part of the ecosystem we all need to play a role in delivering its success. I see Science Creates as the glue that will enable us as individual companies to succeed by providing not only an incubator but also, investment and support and a mechanism to share our experiences for the benefit of the ecosystem stakeholders.
What element of the ecosystem attracted you?
As a young company at the start of its development trajectory we are availing of multiple elements on offer via Science Creates including incubator facilities at Unit DX, its associated business support and investment capability. The combination makes the Science Creates offering more compelling than organisations who focus on providing one element of the package.
What is the future vision of your business?
We want to get our technology into cancer patients who are currently underserved by existing treatments and also work with partnering organisations to make their therapies better. Along the way we want to create value for our shareholders that can be recycled into the ecosystem both in terms of finance and in fostering talent that can drive future generations of new companies.
What important lessons have your learnt – whether science based or on the entrepreneurial tip?
I have worked in the biotech sector for a significant part of my career to date and this is a high risk, high reward sector where in addition to great science, many other attributes are required to succeed. Two of these I have learnt are particularly required in the current COVID era – tenacity and resilience.